Linda Benson is the author of several middle grade and young adult books, including Walking the Dog, Six Degrees of Lost, The Girl Who Remembered Horses, Finding Chance, and The Horse Jar (which has been translated into Spanish.)
Her passion for nature and animals often finds its way into her writing. She has been a veterinary assistant, zoo keeper, race track groom, realtor, children’s librarian, and owned both a native plant nursery and a saddle shop. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and a variety of animals.
When and why did you begin writing?
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I wanted to be a writer ever since I began to read. I've had a lifetime love affair with books, so it was only natural that I'd want to write them. I started writing seriously for publication in 2001, when my focus became writing for young people. My first two novels, Finding Chance and The Horse Jar (which has been translated into Spanish) came out with an educational publisher - Mondo. Then came The Girl Who Remembered Horses, from Musa Publishing's Euterpe Imprint, followed by Six Degrees of Lost, and then my newest book, Walking the Dog.
What does your life as a writer look like? What is your schedule and do you work at writing full time?
When I'm working on a novel in earnest, it's almost a full time job, in the sense that if I'm not writing I am turning around plot point and characters in my head 24/7 (yes, even when I sleep.) In reality, I write most often in the morning, after a couple cups of coffee, and when I get tired of sitting, I try to take a break and walk my dog. It's amazing how many things become clear when you are walking through the woods.
What books/authors have most influenced your life most?
Gosh, this is such a broad question I barely know how to answer it. I am a voracious reader, and read everything from picture books to middle grade to young adult to non-fiction to literary fiction. I grew up reading every horse book I could find in our library. I still like books about animals, and I often write about them. But mostly, the kind of books that I adore are ones that make me feel something. I want to connect with the characters, so that I feel their pain and their struggles, and if a book can make me cry, then in my opinion, it succeeded. I want to be able to write like that.
What are you working on now? Any new projects or books you can share with us?
I am working on several things. The first is a sequel to The Girl Who Remembered Horses, since many readers have asked for more. The second is a YA novel in verse, about teenage love and pregnancy. I am also working on some shorter pieces about my life with animals, and these may gel into a book at one point.
As an author, how important do you feel social media is to your career? Is marketing a love/hate relationship with you (as many authors admit) or do you enjoy it?
I'd be the first to admit that I've met some wonderful people through social media, all over the world, who share my interests in writing and books and animals. So for that I am grateful. But yes, unless you are already a well-known author, one has to be somewhat adept at social media today, in order to get the word out about your books. But it can be a time suck, can't it? It's so easy to get distracted, to jump over to Facebook or Twitter or Goodreads and join in a discussion or look at interesting things. I have yet to develop a schedule where I write consistently without any distractions, but admire those that can do that. Of course there are always distractions - petting the cat who jumps in your lap, grabbing the binoculars to identify that bird in the tree outside your window.
Oh, but you asked about marketing, right? I probably do dislike the amount of time needed to promote my books: contacting reviewers, writing interviews, blogging, etc. (and would rather just spend this time in my creative space - writing) but these days it goes with the territory. It's part of the job description, so we might as well accept that.
Is there anything else you'd like to add? Perhaps some advice to any aspiring authors out there?
Yes - join a critique group and learn to take constructive criticism of your work. Letting other people read your work, and being able to accept feedback, is one of the skills that will put you on the road to improve your writing. Also, read - a lot. Seeing how other writers approach things, and how they tell their stories, only helps to make you a better writer.
Tell us one thing about you that people don't know.
I grew up on a country road amidst orchards and plowed fields, and have almost always lived in the country. When I was in my early twenties, I set a goal for myself - that I would always live somewhere that was pretty. I've moved around a lot in my adult life, but other than a short few months spent in an apartment in San Francisco, I have succeeded in this goal. Nature is huge part of my life, and I can't imagine not being able to look at trees and countryside outside my window. In fact, my surroundings often show up in my work. Oh, and I am a huge Bird Nerd. I have binoculars by my desk and bird books open in every room. Stop laughing! Oh wait, what's that? It’s a Red-breasted Nuthatch!